There’s a really big difference between “I love you” and “Love you” — and it has nothing to do with whether or not you’re wearing a thong.
The letters “love” and “love you” aren’t always just about sex. Sometimes, the more casual the conversation, the more “love” you mean it.
In her book, “Six Types of Love” writer Terrie Landesman describes these six kinds of love:
Each of the above points out that, depending on context, “I love you” can have different meanings.
For example, when you’re calling your mother “I love you” while she’s eating breakfast in the kitchen, the implied message is that you’re attracted to her.
When you’re calling your best friend “I love you” while riding in the car on your way to volleyball practice, the implication is that you’re enjoying the conversation.
When you’re calling your boss “love” while at work, the message is that you’re proud of how you’ve treated this person throughout the workday.
When you’re calling a stranger on the street “love” while giving them hello, the message is that you’re feeling good about them as a person.
We see the same thing with “love you.”
If you say it to your mother out loud, to an open-mouthed stranger, what are the odds that you’ll take it to be an intimate, emotional bond? If you say it to an open-mouthed stranger, are you more likely to take it to be a casual greeting in the absence of a more affectionate message?
What’s more, when we say “love you” to strangers, we’re not just saying it to get sexual attention. We’re also saying it to get their attention when they don’t reciprocate the way we would if we said “love you.”
So how does this relate to infidelity?
If you’re reading this right now, you probably broke the cardinal rule of “love you” by ending your relationship with the person whom you cheated on you with.
But did you know that you can get your point across by saying, “love you” to someone you don’t actually love?
In a study published by Psychological Science, researchers played certain tones as they played the infidelity trigger, “I love you.” Participants didn’t know the tone was part of the study until they heard, “I love you.”
After playing the tone, participants tended to take the conversation in a more positive direction if they were in a non-love-y mood. However, when the tone was played, it still had the effect of making people more likely to be critical of the partner who cheated if they were actually in love with them.
So, if you say, “I love you” when you don’t really love someone, you’re still putting your partner in a negative light.
Instead, if you say, “love you,” you could be saying it to get your partner to turn your attention on someone who does love you.
When you say “love you,” you’re conveying to your partner that you appreciate their positive qualities and that you want the best for them. You’re making it clear to them that you don’t want them to walk away from you.
But what if you don’t know what love looks like for your partner?
In that case, you could replace the tone of voice with something that sounds like you’re genuinely interested. For example, you could say, “I’m curious to know how you’re doing.”
When you’re interested, your partner will be more likely to appreciate the conversation. And when you’re curious, your partner will be more apt to turn the conversation toward what’s important to you — such as your partner’s mental health or whether your partner is cheating.
(Note: Not all researchers believe that curiosity has a direct effect on infidelity. Instead, it may be that turning to your partner when you hear “I love you” gives your partner a chance to show their love for you by expressing their interest in what you have to say.)
Another study found that instead of saying “I love you” to your partner when you don’t love them, say, “I love you, too.” When you do love someone, saying “I love you” can be more emotionally safe.
You don’t have to say it to make your partner love you. You don’t even have to say it when you don’t love them at all. But by saying it when you don’t love them, you’re making it more likely that your partner will love you for who you are, not for what you’ve done.
If you can say those two things to your partner, it can be even more powerful.
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